Apple has acquired Buddybuild, a startup that offers services to aid app developers with user testing and iteration.
Apple will roll the Vancouver-based Buddybuild team into its Xcode engineering division, where the team will create new tools and features for iOS developers. We don't know exactly what form those will take yet, but it is likely they'll still be related to debugging and collecting user feedback. Buddybuild's currently offered services and products are similar in some ways to Apple's existing tool TestFlight (also an acquisition), which allows app developers to share test beta app builds.
Apple has always made courting developers a cornerstone of the strategy for its platforms. Let's call it "trickle-down platform development"—first you give developers powerful tools and an app store that puts their concerns front and center, then they create software that draws consumers to the platform. Each time Apple succeeds in attracting developers to build an app experience that is unique to its ecosystem, it's a win from Apple's perspective.
This approach is the driving force behind many of the features that were new in iPhones last year, like the TrueDepth camera and the various AR components and features; these are features that in theory would allow developers to create applications on the iPhone that would either not be possible on other platforms or at least not as easy to implement.
But having powerful and effective tools for developers behind the scenes is just as important as flashy features in the devices. To that end, Apple introduced some new services and features last year—some of which would be similar to what we can expect from the team at Buddybuild. Just last month, Apple made it possible for developers to sell their apps as pre-orders. Last year, Apple changed the profit-sharing rules for certain apps to be more favorable for developers and introduced Search Ads for apps in the App Store.
Buddybuild's existing service will remain operational for the time being, but the service is no longer accepting new users. Further, support for Android—which was just added in February of last year—will be discontinued on March 1.